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National mental-health initiative received positively at Loyalist

By Mike Fleming [1] and Becky McMullen [2]

BELLEVILLE – The announcement this week of a national initiative to help student mental health is being welcomed by staff and students at Loyalist College.

Bell Let’s Talk [3] and the Rossy Family Foundation [4] announced Monday that they would make a joint pledge of $1 million toward a better standard for post-secondary students’ mental health.

Ryan Stoness, co-ordinator of wellness programming at Loyalist, says this will open up a chance to have important discussions about mental health.

“We don’t necessarily have those answers right now, so this is an opportunity to start exploring those answers,” he said.

Part of Stoness’s job at Loyalist is to look into proactive solutions to deal with students’ mental-health issues.

“We really want to get ahead of the challenge and provide our students with the capability to deal with the challenges that come their way,” he said.

The national initiative will be headed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada [5]. The organization says it will work with students and faculty at colleges, universities and other post-secondary institutions across the country to find the best practices for mental-health care of students.

Sandie Sidsworth, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, says it is important for students to be a part of the conversation.

“The people living have to talk about it,” she said, “and they have to express what works and what doesn’t.”

Kim Collins, a child and youth care student at Loyalist, agrees with that.

It’s important to hear from students and faculty about their experiences with mental-health issues, Collins said, “because not everyone goes through these situations the same way.” She would participate in the process if she is able, she said.

Michaela Alguire, a community and justice studies student, said it’s important that schools have procedures for dealing with students’ mental health.

“I think there should definitely be something in place for when someone approaches you,” she said. College faculty and staff need to have a procedure to properly report students at risk and refer them for the help they need.

The Bell Let’s Talk-Rossy pledge was made ahead of Bell Let’s Talk Day on Wednesday. The annual event, sponsored by Bell Canada, is meant to raise awareness of mental-health issues and suicide prevention.

The Montreal-based Rossy Family Foundation is an organization that funds many mental-health initaitives.